HCA Midwest Health - December 01, 2023

Once you’ve decided to have weight loss surgery, you’re bound to have lots of questions about what lies ahead after you’ve undergone the procedure. Dr. Sigi P. Joseph, a board-certified general surgeon with HCA Midwest Health, explains what you can expect in the days, weeks and months after weight loss surgery.

How long will I stay in the hospital?

Since most weight loss surgeries now only require a small incision, you’ll probably just be in the hospital overnight for monitoring and can go home the next day. Dr. Joseph has five checkpoints a patient must meet before they can leave the hospital:

  1. Ability to walk. Typically, patients can walk a few hours after surgery
  2. Ability to drink water. You should be able to drink small amounts often before you leave the hospital. After surgery, it’s crucial that you continue to drink water throughout the day
  3. Limited pain – your pain level is well-controlled, and you may be taking a small amount of oral medication
  4. Ability to urinate
  5. Breathing freely – You should be able to breathe on your own without any supplemental oxygen

What can I eat?

Dr. Joseph says that after weight loss surgery, your diet and lifestyle will be different than they were before. Your weight loss surgery team can help connect you with the resources, including personalized diet and exercise plans, needed to reach your goals.

When can I return to work?

One of the most frequently asked questions patients have after weight loss surgery is how long will they have to take off work. “A lot of patients have surgery on Thursday and they work from home and then return to the office on Monday or Tuesday,” Dr. Joseph says. “A lot of people think they're going to need to take a long time off, but they are surprised when we tell them they can go back to work relatively quickly.”

He adds, “If you have a job that requires lifting heavy objects, it’s important to proceed with caution. With any abdominal surgery, whether it's bariatric surgery or gallbladder … we don't want patients to lift heavy weights for about four weeks.” When you’re making plans to go back to work keep in mind:

  • Most patients go back to work in one to two weeks.
  • Don’t lift heavy objects for about four weeks.
  • If your job involves heavy lifting, ask to do light duty for the first four weeks or arrange for time off.

Don’t forget to hydrate

Dr. Joseph says keeping your body properly hydrated after surgery is critical to a healthy and speedy recovery. Be sure you’re taking small sips of water throughout the day, even while you’re at work where you’re likely to become distracted and forget. “People think that after surgery, ‘I can't go to work. I'll be in so much pain.’ It really is just hydration because a lot of times you get busy with your job, and you might not think to drink,” he says.

What can I expect when I return home?

Dr. Joseph says your surgeon’s office will typically follow up with you a few days after your procedure. You should expect follow-up appointments every few months in the first year after your procedure, American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) reports. After that, you’ll likely have one appointment a year.

Want to learn more about the weight loss surgery options we offer and if it’s right for you? We provide a free assessment to help you determine if you could qualify for the procedure. Take our free health risk assessment or schedule an appointment.